“THE PRINCE AND THE DYBBUK”— Hollywood Filmmaker and Human Chameleon


Hollywood Filmmaker and Human Chameleon

Amos Lassen

Moshe Walks is a mystery; was he a golden boy of cinema, a fraud or a man who constantly confused illusion with reality? He was the son of a poor Jewish blacksmith from Ukraine yet he died in Italy as Prince Michael Waszynski, Hollywood producer and exiled Polish aristocrat. He made more than 50 films including cinema hits with Sophia Loren and Claudia Cardinale but only one film was his true obsession and that was “The Dybbuk”. “The Dybbuk” was based on an old Jewish legend and the film about it became the most important and mystical Yiddish film ever made. It was directed by Waszynski shortly before the outbreak of the WWII.

Waszynski had once claimed to be fascinated with the downfall of great nations and he related imagery of pogroms and migration to this. He seemed to have achieved almost everything he could possibly have wished, but something seemed to be stalking him, making him in permanently restless. He kept searching for the lost print of his film “Dybbuk” which held his early memories of the Jewish shtetl and his first love. Obviously he had hidden secrets in this masterpiece of Yiddish cinema.

At some point in our lives all of us want to be something that we are not but we are seldom successful in doing so. Mike Waszyński, however, seemed to manage to do so. He was a Jew, a Pole in Warsaw and finally a Prince in the elite circles of Europe. How was he able top pay the price for that and how did he divest himself of his roots? During the time he lived, he could not have been himself so when reality became unbearable, he began to live inside his own imagination. With the help of cinema he was perfectly successful in doing so. He became a unique filmmaker, who not only created monumental films, but also made his own life a masterpiece of masquerade.

As I stated earlier, he was obsessed with his film. “The Dybbuk” or “‘Between Two Worlds”, that he directed in 1937. The film is based on an old Jewish legend in which a young woman is haunted by the spirit (“dybbuk” in Yiddish) of her first love.” It is one of the most important and mystical Yiddish films ever made, ‘The Dybbuk’ also mirrors Waszyński’s personal life as a restless man with many secrets (including his homosexuality) and untold stories.

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